First Person on the Last Page: Choosing How to Walk the Path A mother of three hits the speech-language pathology books to give back as her husband continues rehabilitation after a brain aneurysm. First Person on the Last Page
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First Person on the Last Page  |   January 01, 2014
First Person on the Last Page: Choosing How to Walk the Path
Author Notes
  • Kelli Jefries Owens, MA, CCC-CF, graduated from the University of Memphis in August. She is a clinical fellow for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital School Based Therapy-Memphis. kelliljowens@aol.com
    Kelli Jefries Owens, MA, CCC-CF, graduated from the University of Memphis in August. She is a clinical fellow for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital School Based Therapy-Memphis. kelliljowens@aol.com×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Professional Issues & Training / First Person on the Last Page
First Person on the Last Page   |   January 01, 2014
First Person on the Last Page: Choosing How to Walk the Path
The ASHA Leader, January 2014, Vol. 19, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.19012014.72
The ASHA Leader, January 2014, Vol. 19, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.19012014.72
FIRST PERSON ON THE L AST PAGE
Choosing How to Walk the Path
A mother of three hits the speech-language pathology books to give back as her husband continues rehabilitation after a brain aneurysm.
BY KELLI JEFFRIES OWENS
The saying “life can change in a moment” took on new meaning for my family late one Saturday night in October 2008. What started out as a normal Saturday— taking the children to basketball practices, watching a movie and taking a family walk—ended with my husband being airlifted to a flagship hospital in Memphis. I soon realized that the emergency surgery for a ruptured brain aneurysm was only the beginning. What followed was a journey I never asked for or anticipated, but that has shaped our family’s lives in unexpected ways.
I was determined to make sure my husband received the very best care possible, beginning with a seven-month stay at a critical care and rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta. He then entered an intensive aphasia therapy program in St. Petersburg, Fla. We returned to the Memphis area in July 2009, where my husband’s physical therapy and speech-language treatment continued.
Throughout my husband’s rehabilitation, our family has been deeply moved by all of the clinicians who have worked with him. They gave my children their father back—and me my husband. As they worked to help him communicate, the essence of his personality burst through. I remember thinking many times if I could affect someone else’s life in the same way I was affected, than I would truly consider it a privilege.
I was determined not to let my experience on this unfamiliar road go to waste. In August 2011, I enrolled in the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Memphis. Twice the age of my classmates, I entered a world I had not been in since the 1980s, when I packed my typewriter—yes, typewriter!—and headed off to college. Embraced and encouraged by peers and professors, I have worked and studied to put feet to my calling. Learning has a new meaning for me. It has helped me make sense of and given a purpose to our family’s struggle.
When I am asked how I have managed juggling the demands of a recuperating husband, raising three children, running a home, and carrying a 12-hour class load plus clinic, I confidently say, “I have no idea.” I just take it one day at a time. I have had to make judgment calls the entire way: My children will never be this age again, so sometimes they have to come first. However, school is important and I will never be at this place again—so sometimes school has to come first. Author Elisabeth Elliott once said, “When you don’t know what else to do, do the next thing,” and this has been my mantra over the past four and a half years. The support of my family and friends and my faith in God have been my mainstays throughout this process.
As I enter the workforce, I hope to show that I have not only compassion for my clients, but also the empathy that comes only from experience. I want to share with patients and their families that I have been down this road and am willing to walk

Kelli Jefries Owens drew career inspiration from the clinical care of her husband, Mike.

Kelli Jefries Owens drew career inspiration from the clinical care of her husband, Mike.

Kelli Jefries Owens drew career inspiration from the clinical care of her husband, Mike.

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beside them. I also can offer hope by showing them that my family and I have been where they are and have come out on the other side. There is life after brain injury! It may be different, but it is still good!
There is another saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” This October was the fifth anniversary of the night that changed our lives forever. There have been challenges, tears, heartache and sacrifice. However, there have also been victories, friendships, joy and newfound strength. We can’t always choose which path we take, but we can choose how we walk down it. I hope to make the road easier for those who follow. Image Not Available

Kelli Jefries Owens drew career inspiration from the clinical care of her husband, Mike.

Kelli Jefries Owens drew career inspiration from the clinical care of her husband, Mike.

Kelli Jefries Owens drew career inspiration from the clinical care of her husband, Mike.

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FROM THIS ISSUE
January 2014
Volume 19, Issue 1